This page covers many different topics relating to yearbooks and digital projects. The topics include (click on the tabs to read more):
Who doesn't love an old yearbook? Yearbooks are fun and full of information. They also likely contain many images of questionable hair and clothing fashions over the years.
Can yearbooks be digitized and made available online? The fun answer: Sure! The realistic answer: It depends.
Digitizing yearbooks and making them accessible, like with other materials, does present challenges. With yearbooks, there are questions of copyright and ownership, privacy, and potentially harmful content. These topics are discussed further in this section's tabs, but here are some general rules to follow:
[Note: The lists of vendors are not comprehensive nor are they an endorsement for one company other another. A few companies are provided to give examples of the many that are available.]
Consult the In-House vs. Vendor page for additional information and resources relating to vendors and how to work with them. You can also consult the list below for some examples of vendors that offer yearbook digitization services.
If yearbooks are old enough (as in published enough years ago), they may be no longer protected by copyright and are in the public domain. Also, depending on the publication date and certain conditions (like if it was not published with a copyright symbol or if copyright was not renewed), the copyright may have expired. The yearbook may also still be protected by copyright. There are a lot of variables.
Copyright and yearbooks have a complex relationship, and determining copyright can be tricky at times. Yearbooks are created by schools, but they often include content contributed by students, faculty, staff, etc. A school may also have contracted with a commercial studio or photographer to take portraits. Also, yearbooks were likely published by a vendor. However, determining the copyright status of a yearbook follows a similar process to the one used for books.
For high school yearbooks, it is typically a good idea to only digitize yearbooks that are at least 50 years old to respect privacy and to avoid any potential copyright issues.
Use the resources provided here and follow these steps to determine the copyright status of a yearbook:
All yearbooks contain names and photos. Some yearbooks may contain additional personal information (like addresses, telephone numbers, notes, physical characteristics, signatures, etc.). This is why yearbook digitization projects should be approached cautiously and well-planned. Another reason is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which designates student education records as confidential.
As mentioned previously on other tabs, only high school yearbooks that are at least 50 years old should be digitized to respect privacy and to avoid any potential copyright issues.
Here are some additional resources on privacy:
Yearbooks are snapshots in time. They include the activities, mindsets, and social norms of that time. However, when viewed through a modern lens, these behaviors may seem old-fashioned or even harmful.
Yearbooks, especially older volumes, may include text and/or images that depict prejudices, or content that is offensive and harmful.
It is up to you, when undergoing a yearbook digitization project, to review the volumes and flag any content that may be potentially harmful or offensive. You will then have to decide what to do:
Come up with a plan on what to do with potentially offensive or harmful content before you start digitizing. If you plan on leaving the yearbooks unabridged and having the harmful/ offensive content accessible, it is a good idea to have a content statement to accompanying the collection.
Consult the "Content Statements" tab on the Collection Statements page for more information and resources relating to content statements. Also, consult the PDF below for examples of yearbook content statements.
Is this really an essay? No, not really. But that sounds fancy. Instead, this is a detailed overview of yearbook digitization, copyright, ownership, and privacy. It is the result of some research done by Digital Initiatives after a library contacted the department with questions about a vendor's yearbook digitization services. Before reading this "essay," it may be a good idea to first consult all the tabs in the section above.
Now, let's jump down The Yearbook Rabbit Hole...